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Customer service and protecting online customer data

February 15, 2012 1 comment
Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

Online privacy is a topic that is constantly in the news at the moment, with iPhone app makers Path and Hipster the latest companies offering apologies after it emerged that they uploaded address book information from phones to their servers without asking permission. Other brands, including Amazon-owned retailer Zappos and Sony have had to issue apologies after their sites have been hacked and customer details compromised.

Clearly this is a complex area and one where issues can hurt relationships with customers and cause a great deal of damage to an organisation’s reputation. And with the European Union planning more stringent laws that would force companies to tell customers of security breaches within 24 hours and threatening large fines, it also has the potential to become extremely expensive.

So what can companies do to manage such crises and, as much as possible, reduce their impact on customer satisfaction? Here are four key areas to focus on:

1          Communicate quickly
Customers want to know what is going on, and so fast communication is vital if personal data has been misused or hacked. Even if you have to issue an interim statement that is then updated it is important to act quickly to prevent rumours spiralling out of control. Customers are no longer willing to wait hours for a response, but want to access answers within minutes if you are to retain their trust.

2          Communicate consistently
If their online privacy is compromised, ensure that all your customers receive the same information, whatever channel they are using to communicate. Have a central knowledgebase of information that is rolled out to the web, contact centre agents and social media to make sure there are clear, consistent answers for customers across all channels.

3          Use technology to automate response
One of the major impacts of a crisis is a huge increase in questions from customers as they email or call your contact centre to find out what is going on. If this overloads your contact centre and causes delays in getting through, customer anger will only increase. Use technologies such as Web Self-service to allow them to ask their questions on the web and social media, avoiding an overload on your contact centre but still providing the information that customers need

4          Monitor social media
Most organisations now have a strategy for monitoring social media for discussions mentioning their company. Make sure this planning includes crisis management and that there is a clear structure involving both customer service and communication staff so that queries are answered quickly and information is provided proactively to prevent rumours spreading. HSBC’s slick response to a major IT outage that shut down cash machines is a great example of how best to cope with a crisis using social media.

Crises do happen, often triggered by events outside the customer service department’s control. However it is vital that customer service teams are well prepared and ready to spring into action to provide the fast, consistent information customers want – otherwise you risk losing customers and long term damage to your brand.

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